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All Parties Rally against Drugs after Shooting

January 14, 1987

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ The attempt to kill a former justice minister who conducted an energetic war on the drug traffic has united political leaders against Colombia’s powerful cocaine czars and their private armies.

Opposition parties joined President Virgilio Barco’s government Wednesday in calling for an all-out effort against the narcotics kings, who have murdered a government minister, a supreme court justice, 20 judges and two newspaper editors in just two years.

Anonymous telephone callers told two Bogota newspapers that traffickers sought by the United States for extradition were behind the attempt Tuesday to kill former Justice Minister Enrique Parejo, now ambassador to Hungary.

A man who spoke fluent Spanish shot the ambassador five times just after he left his home in Budapest, the Hungarian capital.

Three bullets struck him in the head, but the Colombian Foreign Ministry said he was in stable condition Wednesday in a Budapest hospital.

Parejo was justice minister under President Belisario Betancur, whose four- year term ended Aug. 7. The Bogota daily El Tiempo said Wednesday Parejo was spirited out of the country the same day without even taking luggage.

El Tiempo said Parejo was appointed ambassador to Hungary because the Barco government felt he would safe there from drug traffickers who had threatened to kill him.

As justice minister, he signed orders extraditing 12 Colombians to the United States to face drug charges. One was Hernan Botero, an engineer and owner of a Colombian professional soccer team who was accused of laundering nearly $60 million in drug money.

Botero was convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud in federal court in Miami and sent to prison in August 1985.

According to the anonymous callers to El Tiempo and El Espectador, Colombia’s two largest newspapers, traffickers being hunted for extradition have formed the Hernan Botero Group and were responsible for the attempt on Parejo.

Agence France Presse, the French news agency, said its Bogota office received a similar call.

In remarks broadcast Tuesday night, Barco said of the Parejo shooting: ″Organized crime respects no boundaries of any kind in its dark plans. Like all Colombians, I feel indignant over the perversity and audaciousness of these drug traffickers.″

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said: ″We deplore the attack on the ambassador as we have deplored other narco-terrorist attacks on courageous and honorable Colombian officials who have worked to end the drug trade.″

Barco’s justice minister, Eduardo Suescun, was visibly shaken by news of the attack and refused comment as he left the presidential palace Tuesday afternoon. He said in a broadcast address in the evening that Colombia will continue its fight against the narcotics traffic.

The campaign began in 1983 after the murder of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara, who had revealed that traffickers were involved in the ownership of professional soccer teams and proposed harsher action against them.

Assassins on a motorcycle riddled his car with submachine gun fire while his chauffeur was driving him home from work. The gunman was captured by has not yet been tried.

Supreme Court Justice Hernando Baquero, who was on a panel that hears extradition cases, also was shot dead in 1986.

On Nov. 16, assistant editor Raul Echavarry of the Cali newspaper El Occidente was shot and killed just after he published several editorials calling for stronger action against the drug trade.

Guillermo Cano, editor of the Bogota daily El Espectador was shot and killed Dec. 17. His paper had run a series of articles against narcotics trafficking.

After Cano was killed, Barco’s government began the most vigorous campaign against drugs ever seen in Colombia. Government security forces, including the army, were given a list of 200 suspected traffickers.

More than 1,200 homes and businesses were raided and 300 people were arrested, but only five were on the list. The others, apparently hirelings of the drug dealers, were charged with illegal weapons possession.

Former President Misael Pastrana said in an interview published Wednesday by El Espectador that the nation must begin a crusade against the drug traffic.

El Espectador quoted Alvaro Gomez, the Conservative Party candidate who ran against Barco, a Liberal, in last year’s election, as saying in an interview that the attempt on Parejo’s life required an immediate and harsh response.

Similar comments from political leaders in nearly all parts of Colombia appeared in the nation’s 30 daily newspapers.

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